VILNIUS - Parliamentary Speaker Arturas Paulauskas said that the purpose of Belarusian Prime Minister Sergey Sidorski's upcoming visit should not be misunderstood.
"As far as human rights are concerned, our position toward Belarus, our understanding of European values, and the legal values of a state remain unchanged. We are not changing our positions. However, there are some working issues, i.e. cooperation on the issues of border, business and transit," Paulauskas told the Ziniu Radijas radio.
In his words, Parliament's executive branch tackles new problems almost every day and therefore, "communication is necessary so that those problems are solved, so that there are fewer problems."
Paulauskas also noted that meetings held to discuss bilateral relations should also address human rights issues important to Lithuania.
"We want this country to be democratic, we want it to grant equal rights to all people, we want the opposition to be able to express its thoughts, the press to be free," the parliamentary speaker said.
Sidorski opened an exhibition entitled Belarus Expo 2005 in Vilnius on Oct. 5. The Belarusian prime minister had dinner with his Lithuanian counterpart on Oct. 4. During the dinner meeting, according to the Baltic News Service, the two discussed Lithuania's economic interests.
Foreign Ministry representatives have confirmed that Sidorski's visit to Vilnius was coordinated with Lithuania's diplomatic institution.
Sidorski is not on the EU-compiled "blacklist" of Belarusian authorities, reported BNS. The EU refuses to issue visas to officials included in this list.
Due to a number of human rights and democracy violations, the European Union has restricted contact with a number of Belarusian authorities.
Lithuania, which has a 650-kilometer border with Belarus, pursues a "critical dialogue" policy toward Minsk, ignoring high-ranking officials of the regime, but continuing pragmatic border, transport and economic cooperation.
Led by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus has been the target of harsh criticism by international human rights organizations and foreign governments, mostly for suppressing the freedom of speech and opposition.
Lukashenko disbanded the last democratically elected parliament of Belarus in the fall of 1996. This happened shortly after a referendum had expanded presidential powers.